Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Twenty Years of Twisted Metal?!?!?

Posted by Rampant Coyote on November 6, 2015

Sony tweeted this week that it was the twentieth anniversary of the original release of Twisted Metal.

This makes no sense to me. How can it be that old? How can *I* be that old? But my oldest daughter was born while we were developing the game, and I guess she is about to turn 21. So… HOLY CRAP!

Twisted_Metal_coverI started working at SingleTrac right out of college. I was employee #16, and SingleTrac was a tiny startup with funding from Sony for two games for Sony’s upcoming game console. The company was mostly made up of veterans from the simulator industry… a group from Evans & Sutherland. We didn’t even have computers the day I started. Some of the guys were working on computers they’d brought in from home. I spent my first couple of days reading over design documents for our two titles in development, codenamed “Firestorm” (which would become Twisted Metal) and “Red Mercury” (which would become Warhawk, subtitled “The Red Mercury Missions,” which nobody really remembers).

When we got computers in, we were still using plastic folding tables for desks, and we used the Gateway boxes the computers came in as little side-tables to hold paperwork. A very ritzy setup indeed! A few weeks later, we returned the big beige (I think) development boxes for two cards that we installed into our hot new Pentium 90 computers, which were the new dev kit for the Playstation.

Warhawk_video_game_coverAnd we worked on our games. For practical purposes, we had until August the following year to finish up two titles with a team that staffed up to somewhere in the 20s. We worked crazy hours. We didn’t really know what we were doing. It was the first time any of us had really worked on a consumer-level commercial video game.  1995, for me, is one big blur of work. What I do recall is that there were so few of us that there was no ‘slack’ at all. Everyone was a little involved in everything. Not as bad as today’s tiny indie teams, but still… it was was a good experience to see all aspects of the game’s development. What happened on the publisher’s side of things was still a little bit of a black box, but on our end, we could fit the entire company into a conference room, and a “team meeting” consisted of about seven people.

Our games came out just shortly after the launch of the Playstation, which was a bigger success than just about anybody expected.

And the rest is history.

Ancient history, apparently.

I mean, I remember when I was working on these games talking about the old classics from the early 80s. That seemed so retro, like such ancient history, but I was talking about games that were less than fifteen years old. And now my games are twenty.

Ah, well. It’s been fun. Still is.

Filed Under: Retro - Comments: 5 Comments to Read

  • Matthew P. Barnson said,

    It was a great experience working there for two years: 1997 to 1999. It was where I discovered my love for UNIX by setting up our web servers, firewalls, and so forth. My next job after the big layoff leveraged my experience on IRIX and Linux at Singletrac into a position for which I was wholly under-qualified as a Solaris admin.

    One aspect I loved about Singletrac was how open the development process was. From the testers to the IT guys to the programmers and artists, there was a culture of inclusion and welcome for everybody’s ideas regardless of their role in the company. It didn’t mean they all got implemented, but I can’t count how many times my suggestions on certain features of our games, policies, and strategy were carefully considered and thoroughly discussed… before typically being thoughtfully rejected 🙂

    That’s rare. More commonly in corporate IT, the usual response is “Why should you care?” and “What’s your role?” before being willing to give one’s concerns or suggestions any credit.

    Reminiscing: I’ll never forget the winter that we lost several expensive computers to massive static discharges over a very short period. I earned the enmity of everyone with a sensitive nose by using a solution of Downy fabric softener and water on the carpets to put a stop to the carnage. It worked, but it also drove several people to not come to the office for several days!

  • Burt said,

    I loved the first Twisted Metal so much. It definitely got the most play time of any game on my PS1. I remember blowing up one of the little white parked cars on one map, and parking Spectre in its place, then watching my friend drive right by me. Then BAM! Power Missile up his tailpipe! I remember he got so sick of me winning one time, he decided to commit suicide by driving off the rooftop with his last sliver of health. I was again using Spectre, as usual, so I launched a ghost missile. It connected with him on his way down, and his car’s smoldering wreckage tumbled down the side of the building for the rest of the way. We both burst out laughing.

    A couple years later there was another awesome car combat game called Interstate ’76, for the PC.

    Maybe I should check out the new Mad Max game.

  • lakerz said,

    You should be proud of Twisted Metal. That was one heck of a great game and ahead of its time in terms of being a great party game of sorts with multiple people playing it at the same time. It was so replayable as well, each go around was a lot of fun.

    My first job out of college was working for a small game developer as well. I was just a lowly production assistant but that year was a big learning experience. I also saw what a grind game development often is. It is very taxing to make a living on it, depending on who is pulling the strings in terms of deadlines and all that.

  • Thomas said,

    I was just thinking about what it was like to develop the game ‘physics’ for the character ‘Axle’ ,so after some googling I found this. I’m 28 now, and twisted metal was one of the first games I ever played…alot. Very glad I found this.

  • Thomas said,

    P.S.: sorry for putting physics in quotation marks, the game played really well.